Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 2:14-26, Galatians 5:22-25, 1 Peter 3:14-16
Words have the power to heal or destroy. “Sharper than a knife,” we say. When a simple turn of phrase has cut you, you know what I’m talking about.
I’m not prone to physical violence. If anything, I avoid it at all costs. But if I’m truthful, which is the whole point here, I can’t begin to count the times I’ve wounded another with careless syllables, intentionally and unintentionally. I imagine I’m not alone in this.
When Paul urges Timothy in his second letter to warn believers to “avoid irreverent and empty speech” (2 Timothy 2:16) he is talking about more than petty gossip. This letter, written shortly before Paul’s death, focuses on the importance of teaching God’s inspired Word correctly. If all words hold incredible life-giving and death-bringing power, imagine how the divine Word of God can alter a life. Sadly, Christians have been known to twist and abuse the Word of God far too often. This was a problem Paul addressed around AD 67, and it’s a problem that still plagues our communities today.
I’m sure we can all call to mind a person in our day and age we might consider a heretic or false teacher. While it’s natural to want to defend the faith, and guard the hearts and minds of others, Paul’s teaching directs us to check our own mouths first.
Paul cautions Christians not to fight about words or get caught up in quarrels over small matters of interpretation. Now, I’ve known many people who enjoy arguing about theology. While there can be productive debate among believers and instances when we must call out false teachings, often these squabbles turn into a hypocritical and discouraging witness.
The trouble comes when we start preaching about things we don’t understand, or building walls around beliefs that Christ never promoted. Traveling down that road, we can become a hindrance to the faith of others. As Paul put it, you can actually lead to the “ruin of those who listen” (v. 14). Yikes! Now that is something I definitely don’t want to be guilty of!
As women in the Word, God will hold us accountable for our stewardship of this precious gift of faith. It’s a great responsibility to wield the most potent Word in all of humankind; as the Gospel of Luke says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required” (12:48).
When we stand before our Lord, we will want to stand “as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). In order to do that, we must be careful how we speak about holy things. We need not be afraid to share our faith, but we should do so “with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience” (1 Peter 3:16).
Kaitie Stoddard is a professional counselor who recently relocated from Chicago to Colorado with her husband. She has her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about helping couples and families find healing in their relationships. On any given weekend you’re likely to find Kaitie snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains, checking out new restaurants with friends, or catching up on her favorite Netflix and podcast series.